For many perfumers, the craft is a combination
of creativity and detective work—kind of creative
problem solving. In a way, looking at the profession through that lens gives us some insight about
the way in which the industry has handled IFRA
and client-imposed restrictions. Many people have
wondered why there hasn’t been a bigger outcry
from perfumers about restrictions on materials
and usage levels. Some of it is down to the fact that
many perfumers view this as an interesting challenge. “There are days when all I do is modifying
existing formulas for regulations,” explained Tim,
“but then that’s quite interesting.
and how they perceive a particular effect, you can’t
react,” explained Tim.
Regulatory aspects and client-imposed restrictions
have become a central theme in modern perfumery,
to such an extent that it is sometimes easier to start
with a positive list of raw materials and work on the
odor after. Depending on the project’s requirements,
Tim uses two approaches:
“If you’ve got quite a lot of freedom, you can
create a smell you like and then modify it for regula-
tions. If the regulations are strong, they simply knock
out a lot of materials, so the regulations and restric-
tions come first and then you work on the odor.”
Cost is also a big issue in today’s perfumery. Many
core budgetary expectations have not evolved to scale
up in line with price increases of the raw materials.
Orange oil used to cost 1 pound per kilo and is now
10 pounds and above. Yet the client will expect to
pay the same amount for the compound containing
it as they did 10 years ago.
Many of the projects at CPL Aromas allow for
some extra creativity and budget because CPL is a
known supplier of high end and niche fragrances.
“It is interesting when you get a modern
product where you can be a little bit more creative.
Sometimes it is almost difficult to know what to do
to start—at first you think wow, what a nice project
and then you realise you have forgotten what to do
with all that money,” laughed Tim.
“I was made redundant from BBA. I spent quite
a long time trying to get back into the industry and
after about 18 months I'd practically given up and
thought this isn't going to happen. My wife, who also
worked at BBA, was made redundant as well and she
got a job in Crawley for a pasta company. She had
been an admin for fragrance production coordination, so she got a similar job at the pasta company.
So we moved down there,” Tim reminisced.
Crawley sounds like a name invented by Mervyn
Peake, but it is a real place in Surrey, England. Alas,
Tim’s time spent living and working there with his
wife might as well have been penned by Peake—it
was not entirely pleasant for Tim, who longed to be
back working in fragrance. He took a job at Gatwick
Airport as a stopgap while continuing to look for
opportunities to get back into the industry.
“Working for four days off and four days on, in
12-hour shifts at the airport was pure hell. A lot
of time we were just waiting for the next plane to
land. I turned into a zombie. Then a job came up in
quality control at the pasta company. It sounded like
it might be interesting, so I took it,” explained Tim.
“After about a week or so I was bored stiff. All
you’re doing is checking moisture content and
Mother Nature is very
clever. Quite a lot of what
we do as perfumers is to
try to replicate it.
“I find it invigorating to have a problem to solve,”
said Tim. “Particularly on the raw materials side of
the industry; not just with naturals, but with synthetics as well—and looking at how different structures
smell and give you different performance on cloth or
burn in a candle.
“Of course, sometimes attempting to predict by
structure doesn’t work at all and it is probably much
more complicated than we are trying to make out.
We may never really find out what is definitively
going on, but it is likely to be multiple things.”
The two main theories on what makes molecules
smell the way they do are the commonly accepted
shape theory, and Luca Turin’s controversial vibra-
tion theory of smell. Many people—including
Turin—have conceded that there are likely to be
multiple mechanisms at play.
“Mother nature is very clever,” said Tim. “Quite a
lot of what we do as perfumers is to try to replicate it.”
“You ever stop learning. I certainly haven't. You
learn things every day. Even the most basic materials that you think you know well—when you smell
them again, or someone says something about
them one day— you end up learning new things.
You have to listen to what other people think and
say. Particularly when getting feedback about your
fragrances. Unless you understand their language
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